Working at a breast pump company, I heard all the triumphs and challenges that come along with breastfeeding and pumping. The triumphs include inspirational stories from moms who achieved their breastfeeding goals and were fully supported at work. But the challenges include stories from moms who have been forced to pump in their cars or in storage closets. These stories are heartbreaking, and they're all too common.
It shouldn’t be this way. Multiple studies have shown that breastfeeding provides many benefits to Baby and Mom, especially moms who can breastfeed for at least six months. We as a society are telling moms it's good to breastfeed, but with more and more breastfeeding moms returning to work, are our words backed up with adequate support?
Does Mom know her company’s breastfeeding policy? Has she had the right conversations with her manager? Is there a lactation room available? Is she worried breastfeeding will in any way hurt her career growth?
Having talked to so many moms at Aeroflow, we thought we might already know the answers. But we decided to go directly to moms and ask them to share their thoughts on breastfeeding support. This past September, we commissioned a third-party survey of 774 expectant moms between ages 18 and 40.
The results show that while we have made great strides in breastfeeding support, we have a long way to go.
Over 75 percent of moms plan to breastfeed when they return to work, yet less than 50 percent know their company’s breastfeeding policy, and only 46 percent said their company has an adequate lactation room. Almost 63 percent of expectant moms think there is a stigma attached to moms breastfeeding at work, and 47 percent have considered a job/career change due to their need to breast-pump at work. It is concerning that the negative connotations around breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace still exist, especially at this rate. This is simply unacceptable, and we must do better.
What can we do to fully support breastfeeding moms when they return to work?
Know your rights and talk to your manager or HR department before going on maternity leave. This guide from Fairygodboss is a fantastic resource for knowing your rights under the law (you can search by state for specific laws in your area), how to talk to your employer and how to find out about pumping at your workplace.
Start the conversation, have a clear breastfeeding plan in your employee handbook and remember working moms are still productive and important members of your organization (and breastfeeding support can actually save your company $3 for every $1 invested.)
Do not engage in any negative conversations and make sure all breastfeeding moms in your department know they have your support. As they say, it takes a village, and this survey and its results show it’s especially true for moms who work and breastfeed.
See the full survey here.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.